Lords of the Fallen comes from developers CI Games who aren’t a particularly big well known company and neither are Deck 13 for that matter, between them their most well known titles have been Alien Rage and the Sniper Ghost Warrior games (CI Games) and Jack Keane 1 & 2 (Deck 13). Earlier this year Enemy Front was released by CI and they just didn’t quite hit the mark with it getting average reviews and feedback from players, Jack Keane 1 & 2 seems to be loved by some and hated by others, it is an adventure game though so that could be the reasoning behind this.
CI also have a bit of bad luck with their games in them being buggy upon release, Sniper Ghost Warrior for example was slated for the bugs and closed off areas, this is never good on a game about sniping, you want to be able to examine what is going on from different points on the map. CI actually listened to players and they actually fixed Sniper Ghost Warrior, no more bugs and removing invisible walls etc. I purchased it around a year after its release and must admit enjoyed it from start to finish and it works absolutely perfect. This shows that they care about their user’s experience.
Today sees the release of Lords of the Fallen, a game I can see has been heavily inspired by the Souls series of games by From Software and it also looks like they have taken inspiration from the Darksiders games and Kingdoms of Amalur. The lead on this project has been none other than Tomasz Gop who was the former senior producer of The Witcher 2.
Lords of the Fallen tells the story through narration of an evil god who was banished from the human realm many thousands of years ago, this evil god has amassed an army known as the Rhogan and they are now attacking the human realm, and this is where you the player comes in. Harkyn, a notorious prisoner has been released and tasked with stopping the evil that is happening around the world. Kaslo his mentor in all of this gives vital information on what is to be done next through cut scenes and chat options, he is usually around an area that needs to be investigated and to move the story forward. You will notice on the load screen and during cut scenes that Harkyn has tattoos all over his face, each marking / rune represents a crime he has committed, you get the impression immediately that he is just a nasty piece of work; going on this quest could possibly lead him to a path of redemption. You will also get a good idea of his personality through the narration driven cut scenes and when you talk to one of the few NPC’s dotted around the various locations.
The gameplay revolves around 3 locations, each of these locations are huge and there is plenty to explore and see. Initially you will be taken through a linear type route which takes you to the first boss and through various battlements and smaller towers in the Monastery Citadel, you will also start collecting a few extra weapons, shields and picking up the ranged Gauntlet. There is also a large maze like set of Catacombs under the monastery to explore a bit later in the game and there is a large demonic realm that is behind the Rhogan’s and Lords crossing over to the human realm.
Like most Action RPGs, you will be revisiting different parts of the map as the story unfolds. Initially when you start playing you will encounter numerous locked doors that require a key and portcullis style doors that require opening with a lever from the other side. At times within the first few hours of the game it does feel like you are a little limited as to where you can go and you are being pushed forward. Eventually though you will come across the various keys and levers needed to unlock the doors which in turn will lead to an area you have yet to explore even if it is off the beaten track a bit, I must admit I have enjoyed going back through the earlier section of the monastery to see just what I can find! These unlocked doors also create shortcuts if you don’t want to fight the lower level enemies again and giving quicker access to sections of the map that you may need to revisit later in the game.
The game itself works in a similar way to From Software’s Souls series of games; the layout on the controller is very similar. The only real difference is the item selection; in your inventory you set your consumables as favourites and the same can be done with your weapons. To change from something like a health potion to magic resistance you can cycle through them by tapping the X button and to use holding same button, magic is the same, select the spell by tapping B and holding to use. If you add weapons to your favourites you cycle through the different items by tapping right on the dpad, tapping left on the dpad selects your gauntlet function which is either a projectile similar to a magic missile, a shotgun style blast or it throws out a mana ball that explodes a few seconds after it hits the ground for some decent area of effect damage. My only gripe with the way the weapon selection works is that you cannot create a weapon set, if using a 2 handed weapon like a Polesword then you won’t have a shield equipped as you cannot use the weapon single handed. So if you set a 2 handed weapon and a single handed weapon like a short sword or axe as a favourite then you need to have a shield equipped which ups the overall equipment burden. I would have liked to see a way of creating a secondary weapon set so if you change on the fly it will swap to something like sword and board instead of having to tap Y to select and start using the shield.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the game.
The combat itself is similar to the Souls series of games crossed with Kingdoms of Amalur : The Reckoning. You have an energy bar which dictates your attacks and defence, do a heavy attack and it can almost drain your energy early in the game which could leave you open to some major damage from an incoming heavy attack or even stun you for a few seconds if completely drained. You cannot simply chain numerous attacks together as if playing Devil May Cry. Much like the Souls games combat has to be managed and has a strong tactical element, do you use your last bit of energy trying to defend yourself from an incoming attack or are you going to try to finish off that opponent? Or are you going to pull back a bit and drop your guard for a few seconds to replenish some energy so you can defend and maybe pull off a heavy attack? Standard and heavy attacks are assigned to RB & RT and LB & LT are your shields block & parry, if you don’t have a shield equipped the parry becomes a kick.
There are numerous enemy types within the game, ranging from weird looking spore laden type creatures (very reminiscent of the spore laden creatures in The Last of Us on PS3) to fast nimble small sword and shield enemies to the heavier fully armoured dual wielding and shielded types. There are also ranged enemies who have a crossbow and later in the game they use fire bolts instead of just standard type bolts.
There are also additional enemies that appear once you have visited the demonic realm for the first time, you have these strange looking large beasts that have huge barbs all over them with multiple arms that can slingshot barbs at you similar to a crossbow bolt, breath fire and jump on you! There is also a new heavy dual wielding enemy that can heal himself if you don’t destroy the pot that holds his demonic heart and collect it. I have also took out a good few big fat type ranged enemies who at a distance shoot at you with fire bolts, lob fire pots that set the ground alight and throw down bear type traps to stop you in your tracks, these enemies usually have mutated type dogs nearby them and will call upon these dogs if you don’t manage to kill them quick enough, to top it all off they can also heal themselves! The enemies all have different tactics depending on their weapons, a large heavy enemy will do a sweeping like attack with a huge two handed axe, the lighter sword & board enemies will try and strafe you and if you don’t time a heavy attack just right will evade by rolling of jumping back. The heavy enemies will literally march towards you and then give a boost of speed and try and skewer you for high damage hidden behind a shield. Lords of the Fallen certainly keeps you on your toes! The beauty of this is each enemy requires a different tactic, much like in the Souls series; however, you ideally need to be avoiding their attacks in From Software’s games. Lords of the Fallen the combat is faster and flows much like Kingdoms of Amalur and you can expect to be hit by enemies and bosses. Thankfully even the boss fights you can take a few hits before actually dying.
These enemies once you get used to them can be taken out with timed attacks to get past their defences but in comparison to the bosses they are kittens!
The bosses or Lords as they are named in the title are huge, heavily armoured (in most cases) hit sponges! Their health bars are usually split into 4 sections; once you knock down their health and it reaches one of these markers the boss will change their tactic making each battle a bit more dynamic. The First Warden for example (your first boss encounter) on the first 2 markers will shed his armour allowing a larger move set and faster attacks, removing the 3rd marker he ditches his now broken shield and 2 hands his fire sword. His main attack now is a spinning helicopter motion which kind of reminded me of Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode 1 : The Phantom Menace. Once again you have to be on your toes to overcome these battles; the 3rd boss I encountered took me over 10 attempts to work out the best way to kill him as his tactics changed, I was trying to take him out in the same way as I did the Tower Knight in Demons Souls by circling round behind getting a few sneaky hits in, this just led to me getting killed as he kept doing an area of effect stun and then pounded me into the ground. I finally worked out a tactic and once he fallen I REALLY felt like I had achieved a goal and was rewarded by moving the story forward and my first trip to the demonic realm!
The game systems and mechanics are also very similar to the 2 Dark Souls games; you get checkpoints which are large floating red crystals. At these crystals you can level up your character and save the checkpoint. If you die then you go back to the checkpoint with all the enemies you defeated back in their normal positions and you leave a ghost where you died. Your ghost holds all the experience points that you had gathered (since your last level up) up to that point, now this serves a few purposes, once you reach your ghost you can leave it there and while in its vicinity it gives you health, magic & energy recovery which can be handy if you are in a bit of a tight spot, it can be just enough to help you get past a tough section in the game. You could also just grab it immediately incase you think you are going to die again! The thing here though is if you decide not to grab it you essentially have a timer, the more experience the slower the timer drops, once it hits zero then you have lost that experience for good. There is an item you can collect during your travels though where you can retrieve your ghost and the experience immediately if you don’t want to head back to that area till a bit later on and levelling up, these items though are in short supply so use them wisely!
Another thing you can do when at a checkpoint crystal is bank your experience if you wish, this plays on the whole risk and reward system. If you hold onto your experience then you get a multiplier added to your experience gain from killing enemies, once banked though the multiplier is then reset to normal levels. Levelling up you choose whether you want to add points that will up your magical abilities or add points to your stats. As an example say you want to increase one of your spells you will add to the magical stat points selection, now what you need to bear in mind here though is that the magic does require certain levels of faith so regardless you have to have updated that particular attribute or it won’t allow you to level up the spell. The same can be said for strength requirements on weapons and shields and your equipment burden which determines movement speed and how you roll to evade an attack.
Go to page 3 for more thoughts on the game.
Weapons range from single handed short swords and axes, 2 handed great swords and axes, pole swords, fists and staffs. There is a good selection there and each type has its own move set. Some of the weapons like pole swords cannot be used alongside a shield and can only be used 2 handed so you can choose a weapon set that suits your play style. During your travels you will also find runes / gems, once you reach the demonic realm you will speak to a blacksmith, he can unlock the runes that you find (they have to be examined for the want of better words by the blacksmith first so you know what they are). If you have found a small rune you can sacrifice some of your experience points when unlocking it in the hopes of getting a higher quality gem. Once these runes are unlocked you can then add them to weapons and armour, this will add extra stats like elemental damage, higher poise and higher attack power etc. You can even add runes to your gauntlet to make it act in a different way, adding a fire rune will make it expel a fire projectile and adding a power run will greatly increase the dame it outputs from the standard magic type missile. You can also remove the runes at the blacksmith and put them in different weapons as and when you find and start using them. After completing your main objective in your first visit to the demonic realm you give the blacksmith an item you collect from the boss fight and this allows him to appear in the human realm wherever you see an anvil.
The magic you select when starting out has a brute force set, there is also protect and weaken set and a ranged type set. Each one has 4 available spells and pairs up with the 3 types of character class you can select. You can choose from an assassin (agility based and fast), a warrior (heavily armoured tank) or a cleric (medium armour and weapons) and pick any of the magic trees as your starter magic. You can however build your character in any way you want, it is literally just a template to start out, as an assassin for example you could choose the magic that goes with a cleric and if you wanted to start using a heavy 2 handed weapon later on you could pour points into strength. I must admit after using the magic early in the game it does feel like an afterthought, each magic type starts with the same spell regardless; your first spell casts a flaming type statue that will lure an enemy allowing you to get in a few hits while the enemy concentrates their attacks on it. I now barely use the magic and find it a little pointless and poorly implemented as cast times are quite slow, I can honestly say playing as pure cleric I am now using the ranged gauntlet to soften enemies only adding to magical level up when I find an item that gives me a skill point to spend.
Visually Lords of the Fallen looks really nice, running the game in 1080P (1920×1080 resolution) with the medium setting preset. My system is now 3yrs old and sports an AMD Phenom 2 X4 965 Black Edition, 8 Gb Ram and a factory overclocked MSI GTX 570 graphics card. The CPU in my system is the only thing that is stopping me from running this on the highest preset with everything maxxed out, I did some testing overclocking going from 3.4Ghz to 3.8Ghz and it allowed me to run the game on high with no issues at all. For the highest preset it is recommended to have an Intel Core i7 – 3770 @ 3.5Ghz or AMD FX – 8350 X8 @ 4Ghz. There are plenty options for a PC user to tweak the settings, you have available post processing, Anisotropic Filtering and can adjust shadows, world geometry, texture detail and set the resolution to whatever you want. I have found that the post processing at times during some of the cut scenes, for example chatting to an NPC after killing the 4th boss the image looked a little blurry, same can be said when you have something behind you that gives off a glow like the checkpoint crystals, it can once again make the image a little blurry. Overall though the world created is fitting and has some beautiful vistas and each of the 3 maps looks a lot different. Lighting when in the catacombs and the demonic realm is well used and adds some great atmosphere.
The sound direction on the game is really nice with fitting dramatic quieter music that plays while fighting a boss and all the cut scenes are voiced. I am not sure who the voice actors are but they have got it just right with tone and mannerisms, I have looked around to see who the voice talent is but unfortunately I cannot find any information at all. One small gripe I have actually noticed with the voice acting is that occasionally it is slightly out of sync with lip movements. Weapon sounds are what you would expect from a medieval type game, the meaty combat is complimented by thuds and clangs of blocks or a weapon hitting its mark, each weapon set once again actually sounds different; a heavy weapon will make a more bass like thud when it connects and the smaller weapons tend to chink and tear.
Go to page 4 for the conclusions on this game.
Lords of the Fallen is a great game, simple as that. It deviates away from the Souls games even though it is kind of similar in its execution. The combat is fast and fun and flows like Kingdoms of Amalur, you have a full story and narration driven cut scenes. From Software didn’t start out with Demons Souls, they honed their craft on their earlier PS1 titles like Kings Field. This is the first Action RPG that CI Games / Deck 13 have released and no doubt if this game gets a sequel it will be even better than this great game.
I have only encountered 1 bug in 15 hours of play so far, during The Commander boss fight. After you damage him enough he drives his sword into the ground and a shield surrounds him while an enemy or two attacks you, the shield then dissipates after you dispatch the enemies. One point during the battle he just stood there allowing me to hit him but the additional enemies appeared. I did die as I thought the game had glitched and while laying into him the additional enemies killed me. Every attempt after that though I did not see this happen again.
At times I have turned the game off in frustration at a boss fight, much like I did with the Souls games. However, I keep going back to it and after learning the pattern of a boss and learning their weaknesses I endured and killed them. There are a few times though where the game is a bit cheap, for example the dual wielding enemies you encounter for the first time in the demonic realm, you have to smash a pot and collect the shard that is inside or he will continuously heal himself once his health gets low and you can’t kill him while he is doing this. Putting heavily armoured foes in narrow passages makes it difficult to see what they are doing as the camera closes right in so you can’t see your character and time a counter move. The 4th boss can also heal itself until you work out the best way to counter the healing and it is something that you find near the start of the game. The thing is though you learn from this and will eventually get past these obstacles presented to you.
There is no Co Op or multiplayer in this game at all, it is a pure single player experience. You can’t summon help to tackle a tough boss, you have to learn, endure and overcome the challenges it throws at you.
There are a few secrets to be found in the game, take out a boss under certain hidden objectives and you will get a better variation of the loot that it drops. There are also NPC’s dotted around the areas that give an extra objective, these NPC’s you will see later in the game if you opt to help them.
You will also see portals open after meeting area requirements; these include a wave based arena fight, a black void with loot and enemies in the darkness and an area that literally just has loot. You can redo these numerous times to get better weapons, runes and armour.
One thing I definitely applaud them for is putting a save point right beside the boss area, it means you don’t have to traverse a large level to get back into the fight. There is usually just one enemy to take out and then back into the boss fight. I hated some of the bonfire locations in Dark Souls 1 & 2, having to redo a large section of a level before you actually got to the boss again.
I have only reached the 5th boss so far after 15 hours of play; you can if you wish just zip through the entire story in around 15 hours, if you take the time to explore though you will find better weapons, armour and audio logs you could be playing for easily around 50 hours. There is a ton of lore in the game which can be accessed through the pause menu and you can also listen to the logs again.
The game scales well across various PC’s with the minimum requirements being the average a few years ago; I think the only thing that may cause an issue for some is the RAM requirement as it is 6Gb and systems a few year back shipped with 4Gb.
Check out more of my pictures on my Steam page.
- Publisher: CI Games
- Players: Single Player Only
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!